Review: Second Life by S.J. Watson

Title: Second Life

Author: S.J Watson

Published: Doubleday February 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read on February 11, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

SJ Watson’s debut, Before I Go To Sleep was a smash hit and I imagine the pressure to produce a similarly successful novel has been immense.

London wife and mother, Julia, is devastated when she is informed her younger sister, Kate, has been murdered by an unknown assailant in a Parisian alleyway. Half crazed with grief and guilt, Julia becomes obsessed with finding Kate’s killer, infiltrating an online ‘hook-up’ service her sister used in search of suspects.
Lukas is one of the first men to respond to her tentative approach, and though she quickly dismisses him as a suspect in her sister’s murder, Julia can’t seem to extract herself from the connection they have made. Her stolen moments with Lukas are a reprieve from her despair but as their relationship transitions from the virtual to the real world, Julia’s ‘second life’ unwittingly puts everything she has, and those she loves most, at risk.

What Watson does particularly well in Second Life is create a close, tense and increasingly disorientating atmosphere as Julia’s life spirals out of control.

My dissatisfaction with this novel can be laid at the feet of Watson’s protagonist, Julia. I just didn’t buy into her behaviour, despite the author’s rationalisations of grief and guilt. I found Julia to be painfully frustrating – naive, self obsessed, and later, wontingly self destructive.

Unable to invest in the character, I then struggled with the plot, which relies on Julia’s poor judgment to progress. There is tension and some surprising twists but it wasn’t enough to convince me to put aside my dislike of Julia. Perhaps the strongest element of the story is the pacy and shocking denouement, though I’m still not quite sure how I feel about its ambiguity.

Just barely an okay read, largely due to my frustration with the main character, unfortunately, I think Second Life suffers badly in comparison with Before I Go To Sleep.

Available to Purchase From

Doubleday UKAmazon UK I BookDepository

Amazon US I Amazon AU I via Booko



11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. herschelian
    Feb 13, 2015 @ 22:40:27

    This sounds just my cup of tea (so to speak!) I’ve ordered it for my Kindle. Thanks for your review…you are great at introducing new authors and wonderful books, many, many thanks. And as I am in Beijing may I just say:
    Chun jie kuaile! (ie Happy Spring Festival)
    we are about to enter the Year of the Ram/Sheep/Goat.



  2. Kay
    Feb 13, 2015 @ 23:20:50

    I did like this author’s first book. I’ll still likely try this one, but I must say that I am feeling challenged in the area of “liking” the unlikeable characters. Sigh.



  3. laurelrainsnow
    Feb 14, 2015 @ 01:59:05

    I have trouble when I don’t like the MC, but I’m hoping I will enjoy this one anyway, as it is on its way to me from Vine. Thanks for sharing!



  4. 1girl2manybooks
    Feb 14, 2015 @ 10:41:10

    I had huge problems with the character of Julia as well. I wasn’t really convinced by her at all and found her TSTL in the extreme.



  5. Deborah
    Feb 16, 2015 @ 12:37:29

    I was exactly the same Shelleyrae. I was constantly aghast in a WTF way re Julia’s behaviour and – though I didn’t see some of the final twists coming – was a bit deflated by the ending.

    Very difficult for Watson coming off such a great first novel!



  6. Leeswammes
    Feb 16, 2015 @ 17:39:00

    Thanks for your great review. I also need a convincing lead character so I think I won’t bother with this book.



  7. cleopatralovesbooks
    Feb 17, 2015 @ 06:55:44

    I completely get where you’re coming from with this one although I did enjoy this book. For me liking the MC isn’t a huge issue although I thought the first half could have done with pruning.



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